Medicating Children

Frontline's January documentary called Medicated Child. It is a must watch for parents because the conclusion is that there are some doctors overmedicating and experimenting very powerful drugs on children, all in the name of controlling children considered out of control or severely depressed. The conclusion also states that alternative therapies and more research is needed, but I fail to see a sense of responsibility from doctors, parents and drug makers that some children have been permanently damaged with this new trend of neurological tinkering of developing brains. It all starts with parents, doctors, teachers and/or social workers declaring that a child is not acting correctly. They are uncontrollable. They have abnormal rage. They have severe depression. There have been few studies, if any, of generations past of abnormal emotional and psychological problems within children and what effects treating these problems will have on children for their entire lives. I strongly believe that marketing by pharmaceutical companies strongly influences many doctors decisions on prescribing medications and that many doctors believe medication is the only avenue of change in a problematic situation. There should be more focus on alternative therapies. There should be more accountability of doctors that have children on numerous psychotropic drugs at one time. Some children can be on so many drugs at one time, no one knows which one is causing which side effect and which ones actually might be helping.

Frontline's January special called Medicated Child just came to my attention and I podcast an emotional response to their story about children being given antipsychotics and antidepressants as early as age 2. Basically, I spend a half hour expressing the fact that it is a tragedy ruining young brains. The decision to medicate instead of truly researching, analzying, changing the issues going on in a child's life that might trigger depression and anxiety is a travesty. Labels like ADHD and bipolar disorder are sometimes thrown onto children like a label on a bag of carrots. It has to stop. To watch, listen, learn and discuss, visit:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/medicatedchild/

Someone wrote in:

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you so much for exploring the ever changing world of psychology and medicine in this piece. While I believe strongly that psychological disorders such as bi-polar are real and serious, I also was amazed by how nearly all of the doctors interviewed in your program believed that medication was the only solution to a complex and largely misunderstood mental illness. While these doctors were willing to admit that research is lacking, they were unwilling to entertain the idea that there may be other solutions besides drugs for this problem. This program solidified my belief that American society is over medicated and unwilling to look for non-chemical answers to the problems facing ourselves and our children.

Boston, MA

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

The focus of this piece was on the growing practice of prescribing medication to children with behavior problems. But it would be a mistake to think that doctors don't also offer other kinds of treatment, either in place of, or in conjunction with, medication. It was at Dr. Wamboldt's urging that Jacob started doing yoga, and Jessica now sees a counselor because that's what Dr. Axelson recommended. Many of the doctors in the film -- including Dr. Wamboldt, Dr. Axelson, and Dr. Chang -- are involved in large scale studies of non-drug treatments. The doctors also referred consistently to the rigorous NIMH-sponsored research which has found that for many mental disorders, the best outcomes are produced through a combination of drugs AND various therapies.

My response: Why not try therapies first, like family counseling, nutritionists, individual counseling, participation in activities that promote focusing the mind (instrument playing, yoga, mediation). There has to be accountability in the fact these doctors recommended alternative methods usually after or during drug therapy -- not before. Why is drug therapy the first solution? Why is this situation a problem mostly of Americans? Why are drug companies the main sponsors of the research and why hasn't the FDA had more stringent policies and research regarding the effects of these drugs on children? There has to be accountability regarding the relationship between doctors, drug companies, the government agencies highly courted by lobbyists working for pharmaceutical companies.

Children of today are testing the drugs for the generations of tomorrow. These children are the research. The story does talk about how early childhood cancer patients and the mandatory placement into a research project of ever child cancer patient has dramatically changed the outcome of many cancer patients today. It is not longer the death sentence it was thirty years ago. But the fact is, there is no broad research study happening and the children are under the whims of doctors that usually up medication doses if parents and children report something isn't working. They keep adding and adding and the fact is, there are no tests conclusive that drugs designed and tested on adults are safe for children.

Parents need to be accountable for what they consider abnormal behavior and whether the emotional issues can be resolved with time and therapy. What if it is violent video games causing the outbursts? What is there was some sort of abuse causing the depression? What if it is boredom causing the constant getting up in class? What if there's too much sugar, processed foods and fat in the child's diet? What if there's a learning disability? What if the child is actually an understimulated genius? People are jumping to medication before attempting to root out problems within their households, schools and communities, to the detriment and stress of children acting out in truly saddening, disturbing ways.

I am not the parent of a bipolar child and therefore, many of the parents on the Frontline discussion board believe other parents just can't understand and aren't free to judge. I just want people to have common sense on the subject. Powerful, mostly untested, mind altering drugs in children should be an issue that we all discuss and debate before changing young minds forever, an usually not for the better. There is little research proving at this time that the current medications young children diagnosed with mental illnesses like ADHD and Bipolar Disorder actually are doing what they are supposed to do.
I have every right to share my opinions, despite what some parents may think.
I posted a new episode to my podcast, Harlem Mama podcast.

Click this link to check it out:
Discussing Diagnosing Bipolar Disorder in Children

- Bodhisattva

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